Thursday, April 9, 2015

Autism Acceptance Challenge 6: Work on This

Use your network to find job openings. Get an interview. Choose what to wear that is appropriate to the workplace you want to be hired into. Make sure your grooming is perfect. Get to the place. Wait until you are called in. Meet the interviewer (shake hands, look in the eye.) Figure out where you are supposed to sit during the interview. There will be a minute or two of small talk. Then answer open-ended questions about why you want the job and why they should hire you. There will probably be a question that starts, “Tell me about a time when…” or “What would you do in this situation…” You will not know what the questions are, but try to prepare in advance. Try not to look at the wall/ceiling interface too much.

If you have made it this far, there may be an additional test for you. This will be a personality inventory that is not designed for the way you think or process language. The first time I had to take one of these, I was well into adulthood, and had had lots of years to figure things out. If the test asks if you have ever stolen anything, say “no” even if this is not entirely true. You remember that toy elephant you took from the girl who sat in front of you in second grade, but that doesn't count. I still managed to get a few wrong, and had to account for my answers. One was something like, “I believe that I sometimes know more about how to do my own specific job than my supervisor does.” Well, of course! Why would they need me if I were not a specialist in what I do? Why would a supervisor need to know every detail of what each person does? This was the wrong answer.


Everything in the first paragraph above is likely to be challenging for the autistic job seeker, but the personality inventory is most odious to me. They are ethically suspect and not that great at identifying good employees.

For non-autistic readers: Whether or not you are currently employed, it is likely that you know someone who knows someone who is in a position of power. Someone who owns a small business. Someone who works in HR for a company, someone who is in some way connected with the hiring process. For Challenge 6, identify one such person (or more…more is good) and talk to them about this. You might want to forward this post along with a request to consider whether such policies are 1) discriminatory, and/or 2) keeping their companies from finding some well qualified workers. Or have a one on one talk with the person or people you have identified. Ask if exceptions can ever be made for people with disabilities, and what the requirements would be for determining who qualifies.

Okay, maybe you really can't think of anyone who knows anyone. You can still participate in this challenge by starting a conversation about barriers to employment for autistic people. Talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites. 

Comment here on what you said and what response(s) you received.

If you are autistic, here is an opportunity to advertise yourself. In the comments, tell me what your skills are. What qualities make you a good employee? What supports do you need to succeed in the workplace? What has your experience with job seeking been like? If you have an online resume, you may link to it here.

For my part, I will do my best to make sure your messages are seen. The first post in the Squawkers McCaw Autism Acceptance Challenge has had over 5000 views. For subsequent posts, the numbers have been lower, but still substantial. For this post, if I receive comments from autistic job seekers, I will make an extra effort to promote and share the post so that the maximum number of potential employers will see your comments.

IMPORTANT BONUS INFORMATION:  Microsoft is specifically seeking autistic employees. To apply, send your resume to msautism (at) microsoft (dot) com

Poster from my 2010 post on Late Interventions with updated numbers."1 in 68 Adults may be autistic. Don't Panic. It has always been this way. Some interventions have been shown to help us achieve success. One of these is called EMPLOYMENT." Picture is an autistic person with a small stuffed parrot between a wall and staircase. Photo by Darling Clandestine. Poster by Square 8. 


  1. My skills include counting money, stocking shelves in any particular order needed, being a kinesthetic (hands on) learner giving me an advantage with technology in my case, I am very dedicated to doing whatever job they assign me. Vocational rehabilitation has assigned me a job coach to help me get a job and I do have one now but I'm still looking into a different job too. My job search has been great so far I got my job during my first interview and it's great so far.

  2. That's great to hear, Kelsey. Congratulations on the new job!

  3. I know I missed out on a bank position for being overly honest ( = giving the "wrong" answers) on one of those "personality inventory" things.

    Long ago I was applying for a clerical position, which included taking a test with a desktop 10-key calculator.
    After the HR person checked my responses and found me to be inaccurate, I asked where the error was. I did the problem over thrice, and then brought her the calculator tape to prove that their answer key had an error. (You would have thought that everyone having the same error would be a clue, but perhaps it wasn't always the same HR person, and maybe they didn't administer that test often.)
    And that is why I didn't get employed at IBM.

    1. Thanks for telling your story. Too accurate for the job...this is why we can't have nice things.

      Good to see you here!


  4. My skills are : animal care, photography, clerical and administrative, supervising, computer, massage therapy.
    The qualities that make me a good employee are honesty, integrity, creativity, thoroughness, independence.
    The supports I need to succeed in the workplace are to be able to work independently, to be given access to adequate information (I can't read minds), to not be criticized for my neutral facial expression and way of speaking, in an environment free of strong odors (especially chemicals and perfumes) and loud noises.
    My experience with job seeking has been terrible as well as many of my on the job experiences as well. -Jennifer V.

  5. Meredith Joseph BlaineApril 9, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    I am a 50 year-old with Asperger's (dx'ed at age 34), and I am in the middle of a very complex and draining transition experience, particularly after the recent loss of my Mom (back in September 2013) and the loss of my home one month after her passing. After having spent nearly 7 months in a homeless shelter (from October 2013 to May 2014), I am happy to say that, since May 2014, I have been and continue to live in a nice and comfortable transitional housing facility in the city where I live.

    Did I mention the word, "transition"? Career and job-wise, that's been a nightmarish-enough experience for someone like me on the spectrum, amid the rhetorical rubble of the past 18 or so months that this same "Aspie" has gone through already! Oh, are you still listening to me, or have you forgotten about the many other people like myself that have so much to offer in this world?

    Oh, where was I? I am looking for new work, perhaps maybe something called a "meaningful career"? I love to do the following:

    Repetitive tasks that involve, more or less, predictability such as alphanumeric filing, data entry into either a computer or a 10-key calculator, delivering charts or other physical items like merchandise back and forth via lots of walking.

    I can learn new tasks, but they require me a longer time to learn and assimilate. This is where repetitive tasks and some things like "splinter skills" and "scaffolding" are especially helpful. But, once I learn such new tasks, I have proven to be a wonderfully dependable and conscientious worker who is fully capable of learning more skills with just a little more need of things called "patience", "inclusion"..."acceptance"?

    I possess an extraordinary attention to detail about things, and I would love to use that special trait of mine into any kind of work that was offered to me with, at least, a fair chance of having it.

    I am an advocate for those on the autism spectrum, as well as my own self-advocate in all things autism. I love to read about and do research on autism, developmental disabilities, and, at least, general neuroscience. I also love to do speaking presentations on autism and sensory matters, and have done so for over 20 years to critical acclaim. Can I interest you in spending an hour or so with me so I can drill some of my helpful knowledge and wisdom into your brain?

    Finally, perhaps my limited, yet intense, hobbies in television and home theatre, film and cinema, listening to pre-recorded music/audiophilia, and digital audio technology be translated and shaped into a possible job or career.

    Thank you for your attention.

    1. Thank you, Meredith. This is a good thorough description of strengths and skills. Thank you for posting.


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